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Miranda Hodgson

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Ice, snow and the caterpillar's progress

Posted by Miranda Hodgson on 03 Jan 2010 at 04:32 PM

It’s the same every day at the moment. The first job of the morning is to put out bird food, dump the half an inch of ice in their water dish and refill it. There is a growing pile of ice next to the dish and it doesn’t look like melting any time soon, but the cold weather doesn’t stop the birds from bathing. Imagine it - bathing outside, during mid-winter, in cold water. It may not seem quite rational to us, but the birds need to bathe to keep their feathers in good condition, so winter baths are vital.

If you want to get fancy, you can buy thermostatically controlled water heaters for bird baths, but there are other, cheaper methods. A small ball floating on the surface of the water helps some of it stay ice-free, as does a night-light candle under the bath (which needs to be protected from breezes). Here, I sit the bath in the top of a black plastic pot of insulating compost. It still freezes during the night, but stays ice-free in the day time.

While other parts of the country have had impressive falls of snow, in Oxfordshire we have had the merest dusting, less than the sprinkling of icing sugar you’d get on a sponge cake, so we took pleasure in visiting family in Lincolnshire for Christmas, where they’d had proper snow. The snow in the garden was untrodden by humans, until I got there anyway, but on going to look around, I saw the tracks of both cats and rabbits and noticed that the rabbits used the same well-trodden (or hopped?) routes, while the cats’ tracks showed that they tended to wander about more.


The caterpillar is still with us! I’ve been feeding it a variety of cabbage leaves and wonder if it might have grown a little bit. We don’t see it move very often, but can tell that it does because of the trails of compost that appear over night on the cabbage leaves. At the moment it is curled up under a domed piece of Savoy cabbage. I have to admit that I nearly took it away with us for Christmas, but ended up giving it extra greenery and leaving it at home. It's asleep at the moment, but I'll take another photo of it for the next blog.   


BB said:

Lovely, Miranda.I have a bird bath right outside the kitchen window and love to watch the birds flapping about having a bath. In the summer we sometimes get half a dozen in there at once!

on 03 Jan 2010 at 06:46 PM

Miranda Hodgson said:

How lovely, BB. My partner's folks have a bird bath outside their kitchen window too and we love to stand there and watch them splashing.

on 03 Jan 2010 at 08:38 PM

sue1002 said:

Glad you got to see some proper snow at last Miranda :)  It sounds like the caterpillar is doing well, maybe it won't be too long now before it's ready for the next stage.

on 04 Jan 2010 at 09:32 AM

richardpeeej said:

You are looking after your caterpillar so well Miranda I think we should come up with a name for her (him?).My suggestion is Caterine!

on 04 Jan 2010 at 09:40 PM

Miranda Hodgson said:

Caterine the Caterpillar - that sounds perfect, thank you, Richard!

We have our own snow, now, and I'm wondering how the outside Angle shades caterpillars are doing.

on 05 Jan 2010 at 04:38 PM

richardpeeej said:

I expect they are sheltering somewhere Miranda -they are too wise to want to stay out in all this snow!

on 05 Jan 2010 at 08:27 PM

Miranda Hodgson said:

I'm very sorry to report that Caterine is no more and has gone to the cabbage patch in the sky.

on 08 Jan 2010 at 12:55 PM

sue1002 said:

That's a real shame Miranda, let's hope if there are any others about, that they've already pupated in the soil to emerge later in the year.

on 08 Jan 2010 at 02:30 PM